\ ˈshelf How to pronounce shelf (audio) \
plural shelves\ ˈshelvz How to pronounce shelves (audio) \

Definition of shelf

1a : a thin flat usually long and narrow piece of material (such as wood) fastened horizontally (as on a wall) at a distance from the floor to hold objects
b : one of several similar pieces in a closet, bookcase, or similar structure
c : the contents of a shelf the author of a shelf of best sellers
2 : something resembling a shelf in form or position: such as
a : a sandbank or ledge of rocks usually partially submerged
b : a flat projecting layer of rock
c : the submerged gradually sloping border of a continent or island : continental shelf
off the shelf
: available from stock : not made to order off the shelf equipment
on the shelf
: in a state of inactivity or uselessness

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Other Words from shelf

shelfful \ ˈshelf-​ˌfu̇l How to pronounce shelfful (audio) \ noun
shelflike \ ˈshelf-​ˌlīk How to pronounce shelflike (audio) \ adjective

Examples of shelf in a Sentence

Put the vase on the shelf. the top shelf of the kitchen cabinet Will you get that book down off the shelf? We don't have much shelf space.
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Recent Examples on the Web The Argus now sits on the shelf with the rest of Bey’s vintage cameras. Lauretta Charlton Photographs By Latoya Ruby Frazier, New York Times, "Dawoud Bey," 19 Oct. 2020 And the tests have a shelf-life of only about five months, leaving the state unable to stockpile supplies. oregonlive, "Massive influx of coronavirus tests may be Oregon’s best shot to slow spread, reopen schools, administrator says," 6 Oct. 2020 The Meijer's security footage recorded the suspect pooping in the aisle and then placing the defecated box back on the shelf. Slone Terranella, Detroit Free Press, "Police: Man pooped in box at Meijer in Belleville, put it back on shelf," 6 Oct. 2020 But here’s the thing: those bottles on the shelf at your grocery store aren’t created equal. Paul Stephen,, "4 dishes made with South Texas and Hill Country honey, from appetizer to dessert," 30 Sep. 2020 But when Tinning ended up in the toy aisle that day, Sept. 12, her eyes — and Carver’s — were drawn to a Baby Yoda doll, the last one on the shelf. Washington Post, "A boy gave a Baby Yoda to crews battling Oregon wildfires. They lovingly passed it among firefighters, across state lines.," 28 Sep. 2020 Nick Bosa is on the shelf, Dee Ford is in limbo and DeForest Bucker is in Indianapolis. Eric Branch,, "Done after Week 2? The best part of the 49ers is battered, bruised," 22 Sep. 2020 Therein lies the dilemma: Fruits and veggies encompassed in single-use plastic prolong shelf-life but add to the enormous amount of trash that ends up in landfills and oceans. Beth Kowitt, Fortune, "Exclusive: Startup Apeel is launching ‘plastic-free’ cucumbers at Walmart to cut back on waste," 21 Sep. 2020 Ericka Dodge, a spokeswoman for Hannaford, a chain owned by supermarket operator Ahold Delhaize, said the grocer worked with new suppliers to get toilet paper on the shelf faster. Joseph Pisani, The Christian Science Monitor, "As demand outstrips US toilet paper supply, imports roll in," 18 Sep. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'shelf.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of shelf

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for shelf

Middle English, probably from Old English scylfe; akin to Old Norse hlīthskjalf Odin's seat

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Time Traveler for shelf

Time Traveler

The first known use of shelf was in the 14th century

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Statistics for shelf

Last Updated

24 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Shelf.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for shelf


How to pronounce shelf (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of shelf

: a flat board which is attached to a wall, frame, etc., and on which objects can be placed
geology : a flat area of rock, sand, etc., especially underwater


\ ˈshelf How to pronounce shelf (audio) \
plural shelves\ ˈshelvz \

Kids Definition of shelf

1 : a flat piece (as of wood or metal) set above a floor (as on a wall or in a bookcase) to hold things
2 : a flat area (as of rock)

More from Merriam-Webster on shelf

Nglish: Translation of shelf for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of shelf for Arabic Speakers

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